Firefox EOL's Itself

Date June 27, 2011

Computerworld is reporting some very disturbing news. Apparently, Firefox 4 (the browser they shipped 3 months ago) is being retired from security updates. According to Mozilla, version 4 of Firefox has reached the End of Life and they're now instructing people to download Firefox 5.

I have a better idea. If they're going to EOL a 3-month old browser, how about I uninstall Firefox and just download Chrome instead?

Lots of people are saying that this spells certain doom for Firefox in the corporate environment and that companies will have to switch to IE to maintain stability. I really hope that's not the case. Versions of IE do tend to stick around...certainly beyond their welcome, and frequently beyond their due date (even Microsoft is asking for help eliminating IE6 from the internet. It's like the smallpox of internet browsers), and they've not always been ... uhh, sterling in terms of security.

I will take this moment to remind you that Chrome is available as an MSI for all of your GPO distribution needs...

Anyway, if you're in the boat of having to support Firefox in the enterprise, I feel for you. Let me know what you're doing to work around this. I know what it's like, and we can't afford to spend time testing a full new release every three months.

14 Responses to “Firefox EOL's Itself”

  1. Mark Harrison said:

    From what I gather, the Firefox version numbers are going to be a bit more like chrome now. There are no security updates for Chrome v11 any more either - google instructs you to upgrade to v12. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that they (mozilla) have communicated this very well, which is why you have the uproar.

  2. Dee Abson said:

    Agreed, this seems like a serious misstep for Firefox. We've just finally convinced management to deploy Firefox 3.6 to a limited group of users. I doubt we'll continue to get buy in for FF4/5 let alone Chrome now.

    Here's the Google Chrome MSI URL:
    http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/chromebrowser.html

  3. Jonathan Angliss said:

    I was curious about the version jump myself. I was used to seeing the .1 .2 .3 releases in each major version, but saw a v4 to v5 jump. If they've taken a book out of Google's page on the version number, they probably need to notify people a little better. Chrome (at least on Windows) gets away with not notifying people because the upgrade is in the background via windows task scheduler. 99% of the time, I don't even know what version I'm on, and when I hear reports of a new version, I go to check, and I'm already on it.

  4. Ben C said:

    Considering my employer's SAP instance doesn't yet support FF 4, this is very disturbing news indeed. It's like Mozilla heard everyone complain about the long release cycle and said "oh hey, let's just over correct the hell out of this for you."

  5. Adam C said:

    Ars has an article about this; they point out that:

    The reality is that Firefox minor updates have never been restricted to pure security fixes. If organizations thought that they could get away with performing only minor testing of the 18 minor updates that Firefox 3.6 has received in just 15 months, they were mistaken. Firefox minor releases have long contained stability and compatibility updates. Sometimes there are even feature changes: 3.6.4 introduced a new system whereby plugins were run in a separate process, and 3.6.9 introduced support for new countermeasures against a certain type of security flaw.

    When I was testing Firefox updates at $job-1, I definitely ran into this problem with Firefox minor updates. I agree with the article that this is more of a change in perception than in Mozilla's practice.

  6. Joe said:

    This is a huge over reaction about nothing. You imply drastic changes from 4 to 5 when there are not. Under the hood nothing has changed drastically. No reason to change browsers unless your manangement prefers to see lots of decimals in version numbers. Think of it this way: firefox chose to use whole numbers for versioning. They didn't predict that retards would think the sky was falling nor did they predict the knee jerk reactions of setup.exe caliber "system admins" who can't bother to read release notes.

  7. James said:

    Chrome is not the only browser with an MSI package. Frontmotion has one along with group policy templates to lock it down in a corporate environment. See http://www.frontmotion.com/Firefox/ .

  8. Brian said:

    @Joe:
    It's a typical geek reaction to say "it doesn't matter it's just a number". The problem is that this is not just a geek problem. The fact is that we live in a world where things are the way they are, and version numbers with a major and minor part have been with us since the dawn of software. That makes them effectively fact, despite the underlying idea that "it's just an iteration". Major.minor numbers are there to communicate with the public about what to expect in this release of software. Mozilla's move here makes that effectively useless.

    Software and computing touch the lives of everyone, not just geeks. Business people need to plan and build processes around them, users need to know what's going on so they can work effectively.

    Further, the Firefox extension system is intimately tied to the idea of major.minor version numbering, so this change also has a huge impact on that as well.

    What Mozilla has done here is gone too far in the other direction. They clearly were feeling left behind in version numbering, but they also had a very bad track record of releasing minor updates. It could've taken a year to go from X.0 to X.1.

    Now they want to release more often, and what they should be doing is incrementing the minor numbers (since these releases are in fact minor), and save the major revisions for when they are really warranted. If they want to go from 5 to 14 just to catch up, they should do that once then get sane.

  9. Evan Anderson said:

    Bear in mind that the Chrome "MSI" (at least the last time I looked) is just a wrapper around a Custom Action to call their setup. We wanted to transform the installer slightly (remove the Desktop shortcut, if I recall properly) and discovered that it's not a "real" MSI in any sense of what you'd expect to see in an MSI.

  10. bronto said:

    Or you can use Opera!!! (yes, I am an interested party :)

  11. Shamrock Hoax said:

    Apparently Joe has never had to do a software upgrade in a large, corporate environment. Instead of being a jack-ass, why not get a job, fuck wad?

  12. csabi said:

    "we can’t afford to spend time testing a full new release every three months" - let us not panic at the first situation like this. I see a good chance that Mozilla guys get a lot of negative feedback for their decisions and will take care in future not to do this again.
    Give them another chance, don't run away like a restless teenager :)

  13. Anthony said:

    Does chrome still have the bug that causes it to write CONSTANTLY to your browser history file even if you're not actually doing anything, causing both your disk to fill up and your hard drive to be spinning constantly?

  14. News: Mozilla adds Extended Support Releases for Firefox | Standalone Sysadmin said:

    [...] was done directly to counteract the bad publicity that they garnered when they moved to the rapid release [...]

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